One of the most popular parts of my website is my Keep It Quiet page that offers myriad solutions for those bicycle noises that drive us all. It’s been online for almost a decade, and over the years it’s grown as readers like you send me the annoying clicks, creaks, clunks, ticks and skips that you’ve diagnosed and eliminated, and I add the new ones to my page.
Recently I received a few good ones that I want to share since they might be ones that are bothering you. If not, be sure to check my webpage for your noise and a solution. If you can’t find a fix there, you can also email me and describe the noise and I’ll see if I can suggest a solution. Or shoot a video with your smart phone and send it to me!
Tip: In my experience working as a mechanic in bicycle shops, and riding with friends, one of the best ways to figure out a bike noise is to ask another rider to help you find it. I think this is because everyone hears things a little differently, so often another cyclist will find something you can’t.
Squeaking when standing
Bjorn in Norway emailed, “When I was riding out of the saddle, I got this squeaking noise, driving me crazy. I did a total overhaul of my entire bike, but nothing made any difference. I read your noises webpage, and all the great advice did not make my bike silent. Since it just appeared when I was standing and not sitting on the seat, I did not think it would have anything to do with the seatpost. But, since I had turned every nut and bolt on the bike, the seatpost was the only thing I had left. I removed and put grease on the post and on the post binder bolt, and tightened it up, and voila, that made my bike quiet again. The seatpost was the source of the squeak!”
Thanks, Bjorn, that’s a good one. It describes an interesting phenomenon on bicycles that’s good to understand. When you stand to pedal or even just ride hard sitting, you can flex your frame and components, which can create twisting forces that generate noises. These can be hard to find because there doesn’t seem to be a logical explanation.
Tip: The basic rule to prevent noises like this is to keep things lubricated. Usually, bike parts are greased lightly at the factory or by the mechanic who built your bike. But that grease only lasts a few months to a year, depending on how much you ride and your weather conditions. So you should remove and re-grease parts like seatposts and stems at least yearly to ensure they don’t dry up and become noisemakers or, worse, corrode and freeze in place. For carbon components use an assembly paste, not grease, or else you may not be able to tighten the part.
My crank squawks like a duck
The next note is from Alain in Canada, who explained, “This year I got a new Argon 18 Gallium Pro equipped with SRAM Red and Reynolds Assault wheels. The first few rides were fine, but that didn’t last because, as best I could tell, my crank became very noisy. At times, I was turning around trying to see if ducks were following me! My crank got checked at least three times by my best mechanic with no results. Then, I took the bike on a trip to Vermont one weekend to do the 6 gaps. In one small town, I was completely desperate about my noisy (and expensive) bike. I bought a small bottle of Tri-Flow lube and put a few drops on the chain and on the cassette itself. To my great surprise, when I got back on the bike, the noise was completely gone! Later, I had a shop check my cassette and it turned out that it was loose on the rear wheel and that was the source of the awful noise. The lube had temporarily quieted it by stopping the metal-to-metal contact. But tightening it fixed it for good.”
Alain raises two excellent things to keep in mind about bicycle noises. First, if you have a noise you can’t figure out, don’t tell your mechanic what you think is making the noise unless you’re certain. Because, like Alain’s mechanic, he will likely take your word for it and just work on that component. Instead, just describe the noise and ask him to ride the bike to hear it for himself.
The other great point is that noises like squeaks, clicks, ticks, etc. can travel on a bicycle, so that they sound like they’re coming from someplace else. In Alain’s case it was the crank that seemed to be making the noise. But, it might be a loose pedal making a clunk that convinces you that your bottom bracket is failing, or a dry, squeaky derailleur pulley that fools you into putting way too much lube on your chain. That’s why a second opinion can often be invaluable.
Tip: It bears repeating — if you have a noise you want your bike shop mechanic to find and fix, be sure that he rides the bike and hears the noise for himself. Don’t let him just throw the bike up on the repair stand and start fine-tuning. He has to hear the noise for himself to find it and fix it.
Another online resource
The last email I’d like to share with you is from a bike guru named Dennis Struck, who wrote to tell me that he has “a bicycle noise checklist online, more from a touring perspective.” Since it’s hard to find helpful bike-noise resources, I thought you’d like to know about it. Dennis also offers a lot of other useful touring advice. You can access his excellent tips here.
To quiet rides!
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.
David L says
I haven’t had this problem yet but I thought it may save someone headaches or serious injuries trying to figure out a creaking noise. I saw a video recently (can’t find it now) that talked about people having problems with what they perceived to be creaking from their bottom bracket. Come to find out (long story short) it was actually from Shimano Dura-Ace or Ultagra Hollow Tech II Road Crank arms. The crank arm is a two piece hollow back malleable aluminum cast with a plastic cover over it. The crank can develop a crack for whatever reason (stress or crash for instance) and is not noticeable when looking at it from the outside. The video showed the crack was usually on the drive side and you needed to pull the crank out, put it a vise for support and apply force to the crank arm. While applying force you could see the flexing between the aluminum and the plastic housing. Usually you will need to pry off the plastic housing to reveal the crack. I also found this article about Dura-Ace cranks here: https://carlinthecyclist.com/shimano-dura-ace-fc-9000-crank-fail/
It talks about his experience with creaking noises and the results of those noises.
Ken Herrington says
I recently had a squeak coming from the handlebar and stem. I tried grease ,no change. I then cleaned off the grease and used some teflon tape with new grease over the tape. Haven’t had the problem since. This is on my 92 Litespeed. One inch steerer tube.
Mr. Versatile says
Here’s a noise that I encountered that was a real puzzler. A couple of friends & I drove from Northern Ohio to Florida in early March to do some pre-season riding. I started hearing a high-pitched squeak. It wasn’t synched with the pedal stroke, it was present no matter what position I took on the bike i.e. seated, standing, leaning, riding no handed, etc. No one else riding with me could hear it. After riding II put the bike on a stand & I & several other very experienced riders went over it with a fine toothed comb. I lubed everything, torqued everything to specs, cleaned everything, & mean everything…hubs, BB, chain, cassette, headset, derailleurs & pulleys, seatpost, etc. We didn’t over look 1 single thing! Took the bike for a ride & the squeak was still there. I gave up & just lived with it.
Upon returning home from our trip I noticed that my street had been repaved & it was glass smooth. I took the bike out & TD-DA! No squeak. I didn’t know why. As I was riding, I turned my head to the left & briefly heard the squeak. Turned my head to the right & heard it again. The glass smooth pavement ended & then I heard the squeak more or less continuously. It was MY HELMET! The polystyrene in my helmet made that “beer cooler” squeak when on less than perfect pavement. Any time the helmet jiggled even a tiny bit, there it was. That explains why nobody but me could hear it. I took a tiny bit of petroleum jelly on my finger tip, lifted up the pad that runs the circumference of the helmet, & put a very small application under it. Problem solved.
Demetri Kolokotronis says
Jim Langley: To isolate noise, make a cone (flattened pizza box side would be good). Hold the small end of the cone next to the suspected spot of noise and the large end next to your ear.
Trenton Pitts says
I have a clunk at the top of the pedal stroke on both sides. New chain and cassette. Standing accentuates the sound and the feeling of there being some slack in the drive train. Any thoughts?